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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Biodiversity effects– one of humanity’s best defenses against extreme weather and rising temperatures

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September 11, 2017 Smithsonian read full ScienceDaily article here

Biodiversity is proving to be one of humanity’s best defenses against extreme weather. In past experiments, diversity has fostered healthier, more productive ecosystems, like shoreline vegetation that guards against hurricanes. However, many experts doubted whether these experiments would hold up in the real world. A study offers a decisive answer: biodiversity’s power in the wild surpasses experimental predictions, in some cases topping even effects of climate

….In every type of ecosystem the team analyzed, biodiversity went hand-in-hand with more flourishing ecosystems. More diverse systems had higher biomass, and the effect was stronger in natural studies than has been predicted from controlled experiments. This connection held true even after the team controlled for other environmental factors, like temperature and nutrients.

More strikingly, in nature biodiversity topped climate as the most powerful predictor of biomass production in roughly half the studies, and it topped nutrients in two-thirds of them….

[Why?] ….Natural ecosystems already tend to have vastly more species than most experiments. ….But even when the scientists ran the analysis under a hypothetical scenario — imagining what would happen if natural systems had fewer species, like the experiments did — natural systems still had an edge. This second advantage may come from other types of diversity in nature beyond species. Differences in light, moisture or other variablescould have given diverse communities more opportunities to thrive in the natural world, empowering the entire ecosystem to thrive more as well….

Preserving life in all its diversity is vital not only for conservationists, but also for the health of businesses and communities. “The variety of life on Earth is critically important to our future,” Duffy said….

J. Emmett Duffy, Casey M. Godwin, Bradley J. Cardinale. Biodiversity effects in the wild are common and as strong as key drivers of productivity. Nature, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature23886

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